PHYLLIS ODESSEY

Two ax heads a string of beads and a handful of nails

Was this a fair price in 1637 for Governors Island? Who knows.  It is what Wouter Van Twiller, representative of Holland, paid the Native Americans of Manhatas for the island.  Van Twiller was no fool, he purchased the island for this private use and Governors Island became known as Nutten Island until the Dutch got hip and confiscated the island in 1638.

On Wednesday, I took a private tour of West 8’s vision for Governor’s Island.

Adriaan Geuze of West 8, is supposed to have remarked on viewing Governors Island for first time “It’s as flat as a pancake.” And so is Holland.

Painters, like Jacob Van Rusidael captured this perfectly in the 17th century.  To addrerss the issue of topographical boringness, West 8 has designed a series of hills, the highest one is to rise 80 ft.

There is nothing like seeing the BEFORE.  A project this big is overwhelming.  Landscape architects from Mathews Nielsen guided us through the site.  

Think of the responsibility of keeping thousands of trees alive in 100 degree weather.  It’s a daunting task.  Of course, like all construction projects, this one is a little off schedule.  The trees came, but the areas weren’t ready for installation, so the architects  constructed a “nursery” for bare root trees, potted, mulched and added irrigation.  In addition to tagging the trees, they had the nursery label the trees according to their location called petals.  The rows are all colored coded, which correspond to their petal. 

We were able to ask a lot of questions.  For me the practical often surfaces before the aesthetic.  “What is the maintenance plan?” 
“That is a good question.  We don’t know yet.”

Having learned the hard way.  Maintenance is just as important as design.  Build it and they will come, but if you don’t figure before you build it, how to take care of, you find yourself in a real mess.

Governors Island is an amazing addition to New York.  It’s a world away from the city, but within spitting distance.  The same can be said of Randall’s Island, but with one big difference.  Governors Island has no cars.  And although the expected quiet is disrupted by the helicopter pad close by, it’s still unlike any other green space available to New Yorkers.  

The West 8 vision may not be bucolic, but it has a pastoral charm.

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